Dear Youth Football Coaches,

“In your position, you’re likely to be one of the most important role models in a young person’s life. Your role in helping children to develop as footballers and young people should never be underestimated. The way you act, the way you behave and the time you commit plays a massive part in their lives. At this point, I’d like to recognise and thank you for your commitment.

For the countless hours spent travelling between matches, stood on the side lines in the pouring rain, offering advice and guidance, pumping up footballs, putting the nets up, filing reports and so on. At youth level our first and foremost aim should always be that everybody enjoys their football. The majority of players are at school all week and choose to play to spend time outdoors, to get some fresh air and to enjoy themselves. Sometimes they’re happy to learn, sometimes they just want to kick a ball around.

Everybody should get to play, enjoy the game, have fun with their friends and grow their love of the sport. The Football Association’s Respect campaign champions positive values and behaviours such as fairness, integrity, inclusion and leadership. Our mantra is ‘We Only Do Positive’ which highlights the impact of positive encouragement in the game. When trying to help young people to improve and reach their full potential, it’s more important to find things people do well and highlight those, than it is to find fault in performances. Research shows us that 90% of players perform better with positive encouragement*.

Being positive about a young person’s actions or behaviours has a much better effect on their development than being negative towards them, which can be something they associate with other parts of their lives and have a real detrimental impact. In my own career, I have learnt from every coach I have worked with and having worked with youth players at every level, and as a parent myself, I view a coaches’ job as both a responsibility and an outstanding privilege to be able to influence young people’s development.”

Best wishes,

Gareth Southgate

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